BOOT CAMP 235 (23/07/02)




Old Faithfuls and Must-Haves


Shareware and freeware can be a difficult concept for newcomers to computing to grasp. Computer hardware and software can be expensive and everyone in the industry is there to make money, so what’s the idea behind companies and individuals giving away software; what’s the catch?


In most cases there isn’t one, shareware and freeware is cheap or free because the authors and publishers mostly distribute their products over the Internet, avoiding the high costs of packaging, marketing and distribution.


Shareware is simply a way of letting you try before you buy. For the most part it is professionally written, fully functional software that you can use on your computer, usually for a limited time – typically 30-days – and if you find it useful and want to continue using it you should pay the usually modest licence fee. Some shareware will be automatically disabled after the trial period, others continue to function, displaying the occasional ‘nag’ screen, reminding you to pay up, and it is only fair to do so!


Freeware is entirely free. Many programs are fairly specialised tools or utilities written and distributed by altruistic individuals, to fill a gap or meet a need left by a commercial operating system or application. Some freeware is condensed or ‘lite’ versions of larger applications, designed to tempt you to upgrade to the full version and some programs are subsidised by advertising so you may find ‘banners’ popping up when you open the program. This is often a small price to pay for a genuinely useful piece of software. Unfortunately some freeware is spiked with ‘adware’ and ‘spyware’ programs that can mess up your browser settings or report back on your Internet activities, as far as we know none of the programs listed here contain any of those undesirable components.


We’ll begin this short series of shareware and freeware ‘Top Tens’ with a selection of programs and utilities that quite simply no Windows PC should be without!



WINZIP, shareware, 1.7Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,

This should be one of the first programs that you load on to your PC. You will need WinZip to download and extract many of the other programs we’ll be looking at in this series. A high proportion of freeware and software programs are ‘zipped’ or compressed to make them easier and faster to send over the Internet. WinZip automatically decompresses most commonly used file formats and it also gives you the opportunity to see what the program contains before extraction, so you can view Readme files and so on. WinZip can also compress large files on your PC, to fit them onto floppy discs or simply to save space. It is very easy to use and works faultlessly with all versions of Windows.



AVG ANTIVIRUS, freeware, 5.2Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,

If you haven’t got an anti virus program on your PC this should be you next port of call. AVG is of the best virus scanners available, comparable in performance with many commercial offerings. Scans and updates can be automatically scheduled and it offers a very high degree of protection from contamination from viruses hidden in downloads, web sites and emails.



ZONEALARM, freeware, 2.78Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,

Now you’re protected against viruses you need to guard against hackers and Trojans, which are becoming a real threat, especially if you’ve got an ‘always-on’ or broadband connection. ZoneAlarm is a sophisticated Firewall program that blocks attempts at hacking into your PC, to read files, load spyware programs or steal passwords. It is simple to configure, it warns you of any hack attacks and asks you for permission before any program on your computer is allowed to access the net.



SPIDER, freeware, 350kb,Windows 9x,

Did you know that Windows secretly records the address of every web site you’ve ever visited and hides it away inside a protected file that cannot be seen or deleted? Spider tracks down and deletes these hidden files, keeping you safe from snoopers.



ADOBE ACROBAT, freeware, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,

Acrobat is a ‘viewer’ program for PDFs (portable document file). This is a universal file format used to encode illustrated documents and product manuals contained on many web sites and CD-ROMs. 



ACDSEE, shareware, 10.8Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,

ACDsee is one of the simplest and most versatile image and graphic file viewers available. The current version can display over 50 different picture and multimedia file formats, it can create full-screen slideshows and contains a number of powerful image editing tools.



ADAWARE, freeware, 872kb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,

Merely by visiting some web sites you can unwittingly download adware and spyware programs that can be a potential security hazard or at best an invasion of privacy. Running AdAware at least once a week is a quick and simple way of keeping your PC free of snoopers, and other nasties. The chances are you are already been infected, so don’t delay!



RJH EXTENSIONS, freeware, 627kb, Windows 9x/NT/2000,

This simple little utility solves a lot of problems by adding a number of very useful features to the right-click menu in Windows Explorer, including, file print, duplicate, shred and encrypt.



TWEAK UI, freeware, 64/565kb (Win9x/XP), Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP

Windows 9x/NT/2000:


Windows XP:


Developed by Microsoft and part of the PowerToys suite of tools and utilities that can be used to make changes to the way Windows looks and operates.



WINAMP, freeware, 1.97Mb, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP,

The best alternative to Windows own Media Player and allows you to play a very wide range of music and multimedia files, from MP3s to audio CDs. Highly customisable and easy to use with lots of advanced features.



Next week – Shareware Top Tens part 2





A technique used to reduce the size of a file, making it smaller, more manageable and faster to download.



Motion Picture Experts Group audio layer 3 -- digital audio compression system commonly used to send files containing audio and music over the Internet



Program on a PC that allows hackers unauthorised access to files whilst you are on line




WINSTARS, freeware, 3.04Mb, Windows 9x/Me/NT4/2000/XP

All work and no play… This week’s bonus program should be of interest to both armchair astronomers and serious stargazers. Winstars is a sophisticated desktop planetarium that generates a highly detailed view of the sky, based on up to date astronomical catalogues, showing stars, planets, constellations, nebulae and even comets for almost any location on Earth, and at any time from September 1752 to December 31 in the year 9999. 

Search PCTopTips 



Boot Camp Index















Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME






 Copyright 2006-2009 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.